Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
What's funnier than a young male dog confusing someone's leg for a female in heat? Not much ... unless it's your dog, then I guess it might be described as embarrassing. I had a client tell me about his dog always mounting his other dog and he said I should write an article about the phenomenon (and I bet he didn't think I'd actually do it.) Spring is in the air, and there are intact male dogs, stallions, and bulls all over getting ready to selflessly do their part to perpetuate their respective species.
It's not always about actual breeding, however, as we see mounting behavior in groups of females such as the case in dairy or beef cows, and in dominance situations like my client's young male dog who is always trying to mount the older male. It's not always even in intact animals-spayed and neutered dogs will sometimes display the behavior. For cows, one theory is that females will help identify other females in heat by jumping up on them so the bulls will eventually find their way to them. Every animal in a herd is safer from predators if there are more animals around them (especially younger, slower ones) so it's in every cow's best interest that all others are pregnant. I once overheard a child at the zoo ask "Why is that cow trying to look over the top of the other one?" as one cow was on its hind legs mounting the other -- I think the parent tried to change the subject. Cattle, male or female, bulls or steers, also sometimes use mounting behavior as one way of sorting out their social hierarchy which is a very real structure in groups of animals. Every animal knows who is boss, and if they get out of line they might get jumped on. If a young ambitious beast wanted to challenge the "alpha" of the group, he or she might take a chance and mount the leader, an encounter which would, of course, end badly for one of the two. This is the situation with my client's dogs: the younger one is challenging the dominance of the established dog by mounting him. The trouble is that the older dog doesn't care, completely unimpressed and unthreatened, so he neither snaps at the puppy to put him in his place nor does he ever really submit to the youngster. If the stubborn older dog would ever do one of the two, the mounting would probably stop. Again, really funny, unless it's your own dogs doing it.
Spaying and neutering pets, castrating bulls, and gelding stallions at the recommended ages can minimize this behavior, but it can occasionally transcend our best efforts. Some tissues in the body besides the gonads can produce sex hormones, some of the behavior is learned and not from the influence of hormones, some is dominance display, and some may not have much scientific explanation beyond it being natural, normal, and let's be honest, they get some enjoyment out of it. Speaking along those lines, of the dogs hit by cars, an overwhelming proportion of them are intact males. Neutering saves lives because dogs don't look both ways before crossing the street when they have only one thing on their minds (they can smell females in heat literally a mile away). Next week will cover the remaining benefits of spaying and neutering.
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